Easy Read Information
Myeloma is a type of cancer of the white blood cells.
This page HAS information about:
- What happens when you come to see us
- The different ways that we treat this disease
- The team of health professionals that work at the unit
Who we are
Myeloma is a type of cancer that develops from cells in the bone marrow. We see between 30-40 new cases of myeloma each year and provide quick diagnosis and expert treatment.
What we do
If you come to the hospital you can expect:
Support - every step of the way
You’ll be assigned a specialist nurse who will be with you throughout your treatment journey – from your first appointment to aftercare. The nurse will help you with any problems or questions you may have.
Experts giving you the best treatment
Specialists from different medical areas meet weekly. This is called a multi-disciplinary team meeting (MDT) and is central to the way we work. The MDT advise, support and create treatment plans that are personalised for every patient.
Access to the latest treatments
The clinical trials programme makes new treatments available to patients. Sometimes these can be more effective. We aim to have a trial option open to myeloma patients at each step of the treatment path.
As a university hospital, we lead research into myeloma diagnosis and treatment. We regularly publish research papers that help in the fight against cancer.
- Myeloma does not usually cause any symptoms in its early stages.
- However, some patients experience:
- unexplained tiredness that lasts for weeks
- persistent bone pain
- unexplained weight loss
- excessive passing of urine
- weakness, numbness or tingling in the limbs.
It may take up to three weeks for your test results to come through. This depends on the types of tests you have at the hospital.
Being referred to us
Your doctor (GP) will take blood and urine tests to get a better understanding of why you are having symptoms that may suggest you have a Myeloma. You’ll then be referred to the hospital for further investigation.
What happens when you see us
We will see you within two weeks of getting the doctor’s referral. Your clinic appointment will be sent to you in the post.
Tests performed in the myeloma diagnosis clinic:
Skeletal survey x-rays: We will perform a skeletal survey if your blood and urine tests suggest possible myeloma. A number of X-rays are taken and the bones checked for damage. Damage usually shows as dark areas on the x-ray.
MRI scan and CT scan: These two scans produce images that are more detailed than x-rays. Often these scans are taken when a more detailed look at your bones is required.
MRI means magnetic resonance imaging. It uses magnetic and radio waves to look at the tissues in your body. CT means computerised tomography. In short, CT scans use a computer to join-up x-rays to make a 3D picture of your body.
Biopsy: A biopsy is the final stage in confirming a diagnosis of myeloma. A small sample of your bone marrow is taken for examination. The biopsy is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic (meaning you don’t go to sleep).
The doctor numbs an area of skin at the back of your hip bone and removes the bone marrow sample with a needle. The procedure is quick – taking 15 minutes – and usually painless. You may have bruising for a few days after. The sample is studied in a laboratory to check if there are any cancer plasma cells present.
Planning your treatment
Your test results are discussed by the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of doctors and health professionals who specialise in different aspects of treating myeloma.
What happens next
The Multi Disciplinary Team gives advice on treatment options that will benefit you the most. Of course, you have the final decision about the type of treatment you receive.
Treatment starts as soon as possible after the cancer is discovered. You are assigned a specialist nurse who stays with you every step of your treatment journey. The nurse is your key-worker and is available to answer any questions you may have along the way.
- Bringing the cancer under control by removing all of the cancerous cells from your bone marrow
- Preventing the cancerous cells returning for as long as possible (maintenance therapy)
- Stopping myeloma symptoms such as anaemia and bone pain (symptomatic treatment)
- Using relapse therapy if the cancerous cells return.
Types of treatment
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given either orally (by tablet), by injecting it directly into the vein, or as a combination of both. It is given over a period of months. You’ll get time to recover between each treatment cycle. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells and healthy bone marrow cells. Because of this, we take a stem cell sample. Stem cells are found in the bone marrow. They produce blood cells. The stem cells are injected into the damaged bone marrow when the chemotherapy has finished.
Radiotherapy is used to help relieve symptoms of bone pain. Radiotherapy uses high-energy waves of radiation to reduce the number of cancer cells in the bone. This gives the bone the opportunity to repair itself. One or two treatments are given.
Bisphosphonates help regenerate the bone with new cells (called bone remodelling process). This is given by injection.
Surgery to repair or strengthen damaged bones, usually in the spine. There are two surgical techniques that can be used: percutaneous vertebroplasty (using special cement to strengthen the bone) and balloon kyphoplasty (putting a tiny balloon in the affected area and filling it with cement).
Relapse therapy - If cancerous cells do return, you will be given an additional course of chemotherapy (and maybe a stem cell transplant). This is to try and get the cancer back into remission.
Myeloma clinical trials
As multiple myeloma is an uncommon condition, you may be asked to take part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials help us learn more about the best way to treat specific conditions. Find out more by visiting the Clinical Research Unit website here
Members of the MDT include:
- consultant haematologists specialising in the care of patients with myeloma
- a pathologist specialising in diseased tissue
- a orthopaedic specialist (someone who is an expert in bone problems)
- a palliative care expert (who concentres on non-curable illnesses)
- a clinical trials nurse
- a myeloma clinical nurse specialist.